Ford F-150 pickup truck towing a boat

Truck makers love to make bold advertising claims about how much their pickup is capable of towing. Read the fine print, though, and the truck usually needs to be configured a very specific way for it to attain that eye-popping number.

Many things can affect the tow rating, including cab size, bed length, engine, transmission, and two-wheel or four-wheel drive, as well as optional towing or trailer packages.

The 2019 Ford F-150 is a great example of this: It can tow anywhere from 5,000 to 13,200 pounds, depending on how it’s configured. Yet the truck that buyers will most commonly find on dealer lots—an XLT crew-cab 4WD with a 5-foot-6-inch bed and a 2.7-liter turbo V6 engine—can tow a maximum of 7,600 pounds.

We contacted all the major manufacturers of compact and full-sized trucks to find out two things: First, what is the maximum amount their truck can tow, and second, which trim, cab, bed style, and drivetrain would we have to choose to reach that number? 

Maximum Towing Capability: 2019 Pickup Trucks

Nissan Frontier pickup truck towing a car

2019 Compact Pickup Trucks

Honda Ridgeline: All trims above the base RT, crew-cab AWD with 5-foot-4-inch bed; 3.5-liter V6 engine; six-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 5,000 pounds

Nissan Frontier: SV trim; King Cab 2WD with 6-foot-1-inch bed; 4.0-liter V6 engine; five-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 6,720 pounds

Toyota Tacoma: SR, SR5, TRD Sport trims; Access Cab 2WD with 6-foot-1-inch bed; 3.5-liter V6 engine; six-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 6,800 pounds (V6 models come standard with Towing package

Ford Ranger: XL, XLT, Lariat trims; extended-cab with 6-foot bed, crew-cab with 5-foot bed; 2WD or 4WD; 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder engine; 10-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 7,500 pounds

Jeep Gladiator: Sport, Sport S trims; crew-cab 4WD with 5-foot bed; 3.6-liter V6 engine; eight-speed automatic transmission; 4.10:1 rear axle ratio
Max tow rating: 7,650 pounds (with Max Tow package)

Chevrolet Colorado: LT, Z71 trims; extended-cab 4WD with 6-foot-2-inch bed; 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder; six-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 7,700 pounds

2019 Full-Sized Pickup Trucks

Nissan Titan: S, SV trims; regular-cab 2WD with 8-foot bed; 5.6-liter V8 engine; seven-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 9,660 pounds

Toyota Tundra: SR, SR5 trims; extended-cab 2WD with 8-foot-1-inch bed; 5.7-liter V8 engine; six-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 10,200 pounds (5.7-liter V8 Tundras come standard with Tow package)

Chevrolet Silverado 1500: LTZ trim; extended-cab 4WD with 6-foot-7-inch bed; 6.2-liter V8 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; 3.42:1 rear axle ratio
Max tow rating: 12,200 pounds (with Max Trailering package)

Nissan Titan XD: S, SV trims; regular-cab 2WD with 8-foot bed; 5.0-liter turbodiesel V8 engine; six-speed automatic transmission
Max tow rating: 12,710 pounds

Ram 1500: Tradesman trim; extended-cab 2WD with 6-foot-4-inch bed; 5.7-liter V8 engine with mild hybrid; eight-speed automatic transmission; 3.92:1 rear axle ratio
Max tow rating: 12,750 pounds (with Max Tow package)

Ford F-150: XLT trim; crew-cab 2WD with 6-foot-6-inch bed; 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; 3.55:1 rear axle ratio
Max tow rating: 13,200 pounds (with Max Trailer Tow package)

Jeep Gladiator pickup truck towing a boat

Know Your Towing Terms

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
This is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum allowable weight of occupants and cargo that the vehicle can safely handle. The GVWR is shown on the vehicle’s certification label on the driver’s doorjamb. Note that trailer weight is not added against the GVWR, but the tongue weight of the trailer is.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
The maximum allowable weight of the vehicle and loaded trailer—including all cargo and occupants—that the vehicle can handle without risking damage. While the GCWR for your truck is not usually found on the label on the truck’s doorjamb, it can be found in the towing section of each truck manufacturer’s website.

Payload
This is the combined maximum allowable weight of cargo and passengers that the vehicle is designed to carry. Payload is the GVWR minus the truck’s base curb weight, and don’t forget that the trailer’s tongue weight needs to be included here, too.

Trailer Tongue Weight
Also known as tongue load, this is an important number to consider. It’s the amount of the trailer’s weight on the hitch ball—that’s the part that slides into the receiver attached to the truck and holds up the trailer while you drive. Too much tongue weight can cause the truck to sit too low in the rear; that can hurt the front wheels’ ability to provide steering, traction, and braking, and potentially cause suspension damage. Too little tongue weight affects how the trailer will handle behind the pickup, potentially causing the trailer to sway side to side, also called fishtailing.

The height of the hitch affects the tongue weight as well as the truck’s braking ability. It’s absolutely critical that the trailer sit level when it’s attached to the tow vehicle. A hitch that can be adjusted for height is helpful if you have to tow different trailers.

Tongue load should be 10 to 15 percent of the trailer’s total weight—if you’re towing 5,000 pounds, the tongue weight would be 500 to 750 pounds. Typically, if your truck is rated high enough to handle the trailer you’re towing, it should also be rated high enough to handle the weight the trailer puts on the hitch. But keep in mind: The trailer’s tongue weight needs to be added to the truck’s payload, so the 500 to 750 pounds in the above example needs to be added to the truck’s GVWR. 

As Scott Leonardi, Ford F-150 vehicle integration supervisor, told us, “tongue weight is relevant to towing to make sure you aren’t exceeding the truck’s GVWR because the tongue load sits directly on the vehicle itself. But tongue weight is not applicable when checking the gross combined weight of the fully loaded truck and trailer.”

It’s very important to know your truck’s payload capacity and to factor the tongue weight into the truck’s payload, because the trailer’s tongue weight may affect how many people can ride in the cab and how much stuff can be carried in the bed.

Weight Is Key

The listed weight of a camper trailer is without any cargo, water in the holding tank, or dealer-installed options. It’s quite likely you’ll end up throwing some extra equipment or luggage into the trailer for a trip, and all that weight adds to the trailer’s total weight. It’s the same concept when towing a powerboat; the boat manufacturer lists its dry weight, but hauling the boat with its fuel tank full can easily add 250 to 300 pounds, not to mention other gear that might be stored on the boat.

We recommend weighing your truck and trailer together at a certified scale or weigh station before going on a trip—this usually costs about $10. Then disconnect the trailer from the truck and weigh the pickup on its own, which typically costs about $2 if you do it during the same visit. There are weigh stations located throughout the country, especially near rural interstate highways. This is the only way to know the true weight of your loaded truck and trailer. 

Doing the Math

The tow rating is the highest possible weight that the pickup can tow. It may seem like a simple number, but there are many factors that contribute to determining how much trailer your truck can safely tow. It’s also important to understand that the truck’s tow rating assumes the truck has all mandatory towing options to reach that number and doesn’t have any cargo in the bed of the truck.

And, yes, there’s some math involved to make sure your pickup truck isn’t over its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and that the truck and loaded trailer don’t exceed the gross combined weight rating (GCWR). 

Here’s an example from Chevrolet that shows the math:

Trailer weight: 10,000 pounds

Pickup truck GVWR: 7,000 pounds

Pickup truck weight before added payload: 5,500 pounds

Payload added to pickup:

  • Two occupants: 300 pounds
  • Extra cargo: 100 pounds
  • Trailer hitch equipment: 75 pounds
  • Trailer tongue weight: 1,000 pounds (10 percent of trailer weight)

Total payload: 1,475 pounds

Tow vehicle weight (5,500 pounds) + Payload (1,475 pounds) = 6,975 pounds, which is just shy of the truck’s 7,000-pound GVWR.

As this example shows, a pickup-truck’s payload adds up quickly when towing, in large part because of the trailer’s tongue weight. This means that if you’re towing near your truck’s limits, you might have to leave some cargo or passengers at home to stay within its safe capacities.